A/N: The quote about traitors spoken by the Dark Lord is taken from "Dune" by Frank Herbert.
This story has a very strange genesis: I meant to write a short character devolpement piece based on "My lullaby" from Lion King 2. Instead, it became an angsty story more like "Gentle, into that Good Night." The lullaby is called 'Rock me to sleep, Mother."
Many thanks to my betas, Angels Broken Shadow and Visitkarte.
I dedicate this to my own Mother, K.E.
I love you, Mama.
Bellatrix Lestrange, clad in a velvet robe, stood with her idiot brother in law as they watched the latest crop of Death Eaters marching past. The Dark Lord was in front of them, along with Draco and Potter. Bellatrix felt a thread of anger and shoved it back down, determined not to let the presence of any number of people she hated take away from her good time. She signaled an elf to bring her more champagne and made herself drink some.
Bellatrix, Lucius thought to himself, would never look quite right in formal robes. She was, even after nearly twenty years, a feral, vicious looking creature. Clutching a champagne flue almost hard enough to snap the neck, jaw tight, she projected rage and unspeakable power, dark and coiled; a knife that would cut wielder almost as fast as victim.
She felt his eyes on her skin and stiffened. Damn him. She felt a rush of hatred in her blood and took another fortifying swallow. "What, Lucius?"
He laughed. "May I not even look at you?"
He remembered the Battle of the Ministry, the sheer wild fury of her attacks on the children, on the Aurors. How she'd laughed as her cousin fell. He felt suddenly cold and a little afraid.
Bellatrix turned and stalked into the house. Shoving past the guests, she made her way outside. The cold air was a tonic and she loosened her heavy outer robe. Beneath she wore her usual shapeless black gown. Her wand was lodged in her sleeve and she drew it out, held it on an enemy none could see.
Suddenly the memories burst into her brain with the force of a well aimed Crucio. She remembered the nightmare days of Azkaban, the time that slowly oozed by, with only the screams and moans of the other inmates for company. The Dark Lord had sustained her—his fearsome visage, his voice so soft and calm and yet so powerful. She shivered and then pushed forward, using her Occulumency training to suppress the negative.
The Battle, oh the Battle. She remembered her red pleasure, the great gory thrill. She'd watched McNair sectumsempra the Wealsey twins, seen their limp forms spilling to the earth like wounded birds. She'd run towards them, spotted the little Weasley chit—Madam Goyle now, served her right—raise her wand and open her mouth.
"Going to join Freddy now, are we?" She'd felt such a rush of exultation, the girl hers for the taking like a apple on a low branch, the luscious copper gleam of her hair, the palpable fear in the faces around her—and then heard the shriek clear across the Hall: "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" Molly Weasley appeared at the top of the stairs like a Fury, face contorted with grief and rage. She might have had Bellatrix, had she not seen her son, her beloved Percy, leading the besiegers that were trying to smoke the last few teachers and Order members out of the burning Tower. Her eye caught his, and in that momentary hesitation, that thousandth of an instant, Alecto Carrow, howling madly, threw an Avada that killed Molly as swiftly as though some great hand had flicked her off switch. She fell in an ungainly tangle of limbs, face blank, and Percy let out a shriek of horror.
Arthur, dueling Dolohov, spun at his child's cry, and Yaxley leapt into the breach, sending him to join his wife. They would cross the River hand in hand, the Weasleys, shepherding their children ahead of them.
And then it was done. The mop up took a few hours but the breech of the Tower was effectively the end. They had rounded up the survivors and dealt with the few recalcitrants that remained.
The werewolves, transformed back into humans, had had a very good day. A few of the wounded were requested and handed over, either as food or because they had been marked in combat and, assuming they survived the next few days, would join the pack. Bellatrix had seen the Longbottom boy go down, still firing spells, mauled across the face and chest. His breath was a soupy, rasping gasp in the hall.
She walked over to the female tending the wounded werewolves. "Will he live?"
The female nodded slowly. "Probably. He'll heal faster with Greyback's vitae in him." She lightly stroked the boy's shoulder as she spoke. " Lucky, this one. He'll have some fine scars to show." Bellatrix had assumed she was being sarcastic, but the look on her face said otherwise.
A few final tasks were being assigned. Splitnail asked the Dark Lord a question on bended knee and the Dark Lord gave a regal nod. The werewolf came up behind Percy Weasley and grabbed him by the neck. Blood began to pour down his shoulders as, shrieking, they drug him off as food for their new children who, after all, would wake hungry.
The Dark Lord gave a slight smile. "I could never bring myself to trust a traitor. Not even one I created." The doomed boy's screams carried a long, long way.
The sounds from the party drifted down the gently sloping lawn. The newly minted Death Eaters, having been Marked and had their little parade, were no doubt accepting adulation from their adoring parents and fiancées in the great hall. She sneered slightly, throwing her head.
Aulus. She turned and saw him behind her, proud in his black robes, mask in hand. His sleeve was rolled to show off his Mark. Despite herself, she felt a wave of pride. Her grandson was a handsome boy, an obedient heir, a good Death Eater. He ought to be; he came from three generations of them, didn't he?
He respectfully inclined his head and she nodded for him to approach.
"Are you going out tonight?"
She sighed in frustration. " Are the lot of you going to have some fun after the fete, Aulus?"
He nodded cautiously. If she ordered him to stay in, he couldn't say no. They had a muggle camping ground all picked out—Tallis and Byrd had gone ahead and prepared the whole thing. Aulus shivered with anticipation. His good friend Anselm was especially keen; after what those filthy muggles had done to Anselm's mother, he was ready for a little payback.
Bellatrix smiled. " Perhaps your friends wouldn't mind if I accompanied you?"
Aulus gasped and then grinned, looking like the sunny child he had been. "Please do! Grandmama, you're a legend!" He blushed slightly; his friends, having grown up hearing about Bella's bold exploits, would be delighted to have she and Grandpapa there to give tips.
She began to walk back and he slowed his strides to allow for her shorter legs. The moon was a white pearl in the sky and he breathed deeply, feeling handsome and dangerous and young. The world stretched before him like a tapestry.
"Is Mother going home to Cardiff tomorrow?"
Ever since Hermione had explained about her parents, Aulus had felt a dreadful conflict about May First. He loved the celebrations, the stories, the school holiday , the sweets and gifts, but he hated the sadness in Mother's eyes. In some small guilty part of himself, Aulus was always relieved that Mother left after the fete; they could celebrate for the next few days without the specter of her natural parents hovering overhead.
"Of course she is, boy. When has she not?"
Aulus was used to Grandmama's prickly demeanor and said nothing. He was slightly drunk on champagne, which no doubt disinhibited him to a degree. He suddenly stopped and blurted out "Doesn't it bother you?"
She stopped and looked at him, eyes narrowing. Oh, he was in so much trouble. He suddenly felt closer to twelve than almost eighteen. He could have wept. Poor Mother, he'd said a dreadful thing!
" No. They were her parents."
" But you're her parents, you and Grandpapa! She said as much herself."
Bellatrix blinked once. "Of course we are." She began to walk again, fastening her over robe.
Aulus felt awful. He'd done a terrible thing, but he was, after all, a Slytherin. "Grandmama, I will speak to my friends. We intend to leave at midnight. Does that suit you?"
Bellatrix, who missed nothing, turned and stood in his path. " You may ask me once, Aulus, and never mention it again."
" Why does she care so much? They were only stupid muggles!"
They were almost at the house. She lowered her voice and grabbed his arm hard enough to hurt. " And your mother is nothing but a mud blood slut made good, hardly fit for a Malfoy to wipe his shoes on. Would remembering that hurt you any less if your father killed her and then himself?"
His knees actually buckled, his vision full of whirling spots. He wanted to sick up. Sweet merciful Circe, poor Mother. His grandmother watched impassive as he struggled with this new knowledge.
" I—I— Grandmama--- "
She ignored him. "Do you love your mother, Aulus?"
He nodded through his horror. "Yes, Grandmama."
"Then compose yourself. I won't have you upsetting her with ancient history." She paused, perhaps remembering quiet sobs in the night, a girl too considerate, too polite, too good to wake the elf so she wouldn't be alone in her grief. Poor thing, she'd cried for her Mummy like a child, hadn't she?
Although she would never, never tell anyone this, Bellatrix hated this time of year as well. She hated the Season, with its glittering hypocrites and Lucius's smug face and the rounds of fetes and musicales and supper parties and all that nonsense, but most of all she hated it because it made her think too much about the past.
She hated that she couldn't fight anymore. She hated that she was a relic, a figure from the past to frighten naughty children with. She hated telling the same stories over and over, hated the oily courtesy and tributes to her once prowess.
Above all, she hated those damned muggles. Hated that they had been so inconsiderate as to die, hated that the girl was too smart for her own good, hated that she couldn't fix this. The Dark Lord had insisted that the children understand that they had nowhere else to go, no one to turn to, that they be given all the love and affection possible in order to confuse and manipulate them. It had worked but he had forgotten that knives can cut both ways.
Imagine, not wanting to wake a house elf. All those lonely tears shed into a cool cotton pillow slip or the crook of an arm that was still far too thin and covered with the scars of the thousand indignities fugitive life inflicted on the body.
Her hand twitched with recollections. The feeling of a damp, nightdress clad back as it heaved and then finally began to move evenly, calmly, in sleep. The raw voice, crying out almost silently for mother and home and a life remembered and lost. The sound of her own voice, humming and humming. "Backward, turn backward, O time in it's flight…"
Her hand tightened around the handle of her wand. Damn them to the coldest, darkest depths of Hades; if the Grangers had been standing before her, she would have killed them again and again, filled with rage and…jealousy? Did she envy them this bit of Hermione, when she had everything and they were beyond all caring?
Aulus saw his grandmother's face change. He took an involuntary step back and she lowered the wand a bit. " Midnight is fine, Aulus."
Bellatrix hated herself for her base weakness ( and over a filthy mud blood, not even the child of her body!). She waved Aulus inside and he wisely took a cue, vanishing like smoke. He loved Grandmama very much, but she was a dangerous woman.
She was alone again, with her memories. Such pain and pleasure in them, sweet and yet poisoned. She would never admit any of this, even to herself. She would push it away and never think of it again.
She went up the servant's stairs and made her way to the family quarters to lie down for a few moments. She would be missed but not punished; she wasn't that relevant anymore.
The nursery door was open. She meant to walk by it without stopping, but from the inside a familiar sound was drifting forth. "Come from the silence so long and so deep…"
The girls must have been asleep. Bellatrix heard the chair creak slightly as Hermione rose and walked out, closing the door behind her. She gasped.
" I didn't know--"
"Who taught you that?"
Hermione looked perplexed. "You did."
Bellatrix felt a surge of vindictive pleasure. Time reduces the dead to their own shadows, while she and Rudolphus were alive. She smiled at her daughter and Hermione smiled back, very tired. She had a hard time in the spring but as the years went by she looked forward to her vacation.
"You look wretched, girl. Go to bed."
Hermione nodded and obediently walked toward her suite of rooms, deciding to summon an elf to ask Narcissa to see the guests off. Suddenly she became aware she was not alone; from behind her Bellatrix coughed.
Sitting in wing chairs in Hermione's sitting room, sipping brandy, the two women studied one another. Neither one had, in the other's mind, changed all that much. Bella's hair was still dense and black, though shot through with a few streaks of white, like cream on strong coffee. Her face has changed little too, still hard and cold.
" You've lost weight. How much?"
"Only about five--"
Bellatrix set her decanter down with a thunk on the delicate table. "Liar. You've lost at least a full stone."
She stood up and walked to Hermione's side, dropped to her haunches and looked her in the face.
" I thought I'd broken you of lying, princess."
Hermione flushed. "Really, I mean…" She torn between indignation and a sense of self preservation. Theoretically, she was an adult, but Hermione had learned the hard way to put nothing past her foster mother.
Bellatrix calls for Tibby. " Fetch Madam a nutrient potion and a pasty." The elf, who was as terrified of Madam's mother as any of the rest of the elves, vanished with a shiver and a bow.
Hermione tried another track. "Thank you, but I'm not--"
Tibby returned with the potion, a warm pasty and a goblet of pumpkin juice. He left his burden on the table and gratefully disappeared, thinking that look on Mistress Bellatrix's face boded no good for Madam at all.
Bellatrix gave Hermione a glare that might have killed a full grown Hungarian Horntail. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
Self preservation won out. She sighed and drank the awful, chalky potion as fast as she could. The pasty was at least warm and tasty, stuffed with pork and apples. Perhaps she had been a little hungry after all.
Bellatrix hadn't gotten up. She watched as the pasty disappeared and nodded to herself, more than slightly smug. ' Not hungry, indeed. Will she never learn I know what's best for her?'
Bellatrix finally rose. " Go to bed, Hermione." She paused long enough to give a final dire glare, promising awful retribution if Hermione dawdled, and then left. It was almost time. She went to her quarters and retrieved her mask and robes.
They met near the front door. Rudolphus was regaling Anselm Nott and Aulus with the story of his first raid. "So then Dolohov and I—Bellatrix, what a pleasant surprise."
She ignored him. "Are we going?"
Aulus nodded. After making sure everyone knew where to go, they Apparated to the camp ground. Bellatrix landed hard but stayed upright. Her vision was sharpening, her sense heightened by the massive influx of adrenaline. They walked silently to the first cabin and Jamie Potter blasted the door open.
And then they were in the muggles were screaming, screaming she raised her wand called the first curse the man fell stricken his wife jumped out of bed she was shrieking face spattered her husband's blood Bella laughed too gave her a dose of Scourgify to watch her strangle on it the boys were laughing dragging the daughters out of bed the charnel house smell was overlaid by rut and sweat scream upon scream like a wave a chorus of suffering and she was glad glad of it she ran outside went to the next cabin and the next wild hair flying red mouth open laughing or crying out or screaming her heart was a thumping wild stone in her breast sweat pooled under her shoulder blades and the lights were so bright so good so alive she felt as though no time had passed at all.
Afterword they came back, spent in every sense. She heard her husband tell the boys to shower well and have the elves take the towels at once. They took his advice, departed for their own beds with hearty good nights. She passed Draco in the halls, whistling a little bit and felt like hexing him when she saw the smug look on his face. How dare he make a demand on Hermione when she felt so tired and hadn't been eating well! He ducked when he saw the fierce look and mumbled a greeting.
She hated the smirk that was playing around his mouth, in his eyes. "Well, what is it, then? You look like the cat who ate the pixie."
Draco was feeling more than slightly hung over by this point—he knew he'd wake up to a screeching headache and bawling infants, once they realized Mother was really going away without them. He made two fatal errors almost at once.
" Not that it's any of your business, Aunt, but I made a very profitable discovery today."
"How nice for you. Have you finally learned to tie your own shoestrings?"
He went rigid. "How dare you insult me in my own home, you--"
"Giving birth to you was the worst day's work Narcissa ever did, you impudent little bastard. I shudder to think you've discovered anything of import to our Master."
" Oh but I have. Something about that red haired jackass Hermione moons over every year about this time. Be an awful shame, wouldn't it, if she found out her little martyr's been alive this whole time, still asking after her ?"
He would never have actually done it. Never. He simply meant to back Bellatrix off and buy her grudging respect. Instead, he found himself shoved into a wall, wand pressed to his throat.
" If you dare say anything to my daughter about this—at all, ever—I will kill you so slowly that the Longbottoms' fate will seem the greatest kindness to you. Do you understand ? Do you?"
He gasped and nodded. " Please…" She let him go and stood back, watching as straightened his robes and smoothed his hair.
" Is he? Alive?"
Draco managed a smirk. "Not anymore." He turned to go and she watched him, pondering the implications of what he'd said. "Draco?"
He turned. "You did it yourself?"
He nodded. "He did almost ruin my wife, Aunt Bellatrix."
"Thank you." He gave her a final nod and then walked to his own rooms, wanting a shower and his own soft down mattress. He didn't whistle – his aunt had knocked it out of him.
Bella wandered onto a balcony. The peacocks were waking, their fat cream colored bodies waddling here and there in the misty pre-dawn stillness. She could smell the night's pleasures on herself.
She had her wand in hand again. The sky was a perfect royal blue, just barely tinged with dawn. She began to sing to herself, very softly.
"Never here after to wake or to weep, rock me to sleep, Mother, rock me to sleep."
Suddenly the wand flicked. "Morsmordre!"
Bellatrix Lestrange came back to herself, and eyed the green scarred sky with joy. The rush of love she felt—for Voldemort, for Hermione and her children, even in some distant sense for her husband—were all tied up in that symbol, in the struggled and the victory and the long years since. She had changed and not changed, won and lost and won again. Her heart lightened and when she spoke only the peacocks heard her.
"That's my lullaby."